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Why Every Best-Of List Is Wrong

Illustration for article titled Why Every Best-Of List Is Wrong

First off, let's get one thing out of the way - "best of" lists, on any site, are there for click baiting. Whether it's to reaffirm insecurities of spineless gamers ("I don't like this game because no one else does, but if it's on a best of list then it's my favourite and I loved it back in the day.") or to lure angry replies from half-brained nit-wits who figured out how Caps Lock works ("YOU FAGGOTS CALL OF DUTY IS THE BEST, MARIO IS GAY, ARE YOU EVEN REAL GAMERS, GET OUT OF YOUR MOM'S BASEMENTS, FANNY BANDITS."), "best of" lists are not an authority on anything.

Still - every time one of these lists comes out from a high-profile website, it's talked about, even in passing. I don't put much weight on them, but a good point of discussion usually comes out of them; and someone drops the word "classic". Now, I hate the invisible pigeon holing committee that seems to uplift some games to the heavens while completely and utterly ignoring other great games. I also hate the "cult" label, for games that Johnny Bro wouldn't understand yet are still "classics". There are hundreds of thousands of games in existence, but you can bet your butt cushion every major Top 100 list has the same games on it - Mario Galaxy, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Ocarina of Time, Shadow of the Colossus, Grand Theft Auto 3 (or SA if you're "indie")... Now, some of these games are on my personal Top 100 list. Others, I absolutely despise, and I can't for the life of me understand the appeal... But every game on these lists, every single one, I've heard legitimate reasons as to why someone does or does not like them.

Now, I know what you're all thinking. "But PHC, these lists are supposed to represent the likes and dislikes of the majority, not games that everyone likes." Mayhap thine hast a point! But allow me to retort. Below is a list of my Top 100 Games of All Time.

Illustration for article titled Why Every Best-Of List Is Wrong

Now, something to note about this "definitive" list. It doesn't have Pokemon X on it. If I hadn't made this list two weeks ago, it would have been. I also own several games that I have not played nearly enough to offer a fair verdict on - Deus Ex, Dinosaurs for Hire, Stalker, Cryostasis, Ranger-X, Shinobi III, Yoshi's Island... Dozens, really. Any one of those could potentially wind up on this list at some point. Breath of Fire III is on there, but I have never played BoF4 (and I own both it and Dragon Quarter). Mass Effect 1 is on there, but I hated Ass Effect 2 (because it's a dumbed-dumb bro sequel design less for the sci-fi nerds and more more the popcorn-eating masses).

Another thing to point out - look at some of the games on there. Raiden Fighters Jet. Digital Devil Saga. Resistance 3. These are all great games. They may even have great review scores. But they'll never be on IGN's Top 100. Why? Simple reason. Those are my games. I didn't make them. I sure as hell am not the only one to have played them, and I'm not the only one who likes them. But my opinion, my verdict of what games I like and which ones I don't, is part of my identity. Many of these list have SotC in the Top 10 - and I fucking hate that game. It would be in my 10 Worst games, and I could legitimately compare it to Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing (unfinished game in a big, empty world with almost nothing to do). Yet many of you would give it a 10/10. That's great - you're not me. And I'm not you. Yes, we're all individuals.

Here's another point to illustrate... My fiance is the closest person to me in the world. Her and I have a ton in common, and we like a lot of the same things. But when I asked her to tell me her Top 10 games for the sake of this article, here's what she came up with:

#1: Baldur's Gate II
#2: Diablo II
#3: Seiken Densetsu 3
#4: TLoZ: Wind Waker
#5: Valkyria Chronicles
#6: Liquid Kids
#7: Final Fantasy 7/9 (you can't make me choose)
#8: Guild Wars 2
#9: No One Lives Forever 2
#10: Mafia
#11: Super Bomberman 5

She clearly broke the rules and gave me 12 games, but whatevs. She's a free spirit and a rebel. Point is, more than half of her list doesn't even make my Top 100. Those are her games. Those games are her. She may be my other half, but she's not me when it comes to game tastes, and despite my begging her to play the Mega Man Legends series, neither of those games are on her list (and both would make my Top 10)... Though one track of music from MML1 did make its way on to her iPad, so I count a minor victory there.

So what does this have to do with "professional" lists? Well, to be frank, I'm offended by them. They take the passion of millions of gamers, throw it in a blender, and make a feeble attempt to say "These are the things you should like," or, "These are the things that are objectively the best." And they're wrong. They're stupid, and they're wrong. I will never like a sandbox game like GTA or Just Cause. I thought Arkham City was a lesser game than Arkham Asylum. I will never give a winged fuck about Battleduty of Honour: Bad Crysis, but I could spend an hour telling you why Singularity is the one of the 10 best shooters ever made (and why Raven is/was an amazing studio that consistently made great games you never played). Just the same, Tommy Suburbs is going to get Skylanders 7 from for Christmas, where he'd look at Mega Man X or Final Fantasy VII and be bored to tears. Some of you will look at my list and scoff at what a stupid fartmuffin I am.

And I do hope you work that word into your vocabulary, I did enjoy writing it.

So anyway, that's my thoughts on those lists. And really, it's probably my opinion on critical analysis in general - I saw a professional review that gave Singularity a 5 and said it wasn't any fun and had no original ideas. That's their opinion. They're entitled to it. But they clearly didn't play past the tutorial level. Point is, subjectivity is glorious, and I'll continue to buy games regardless of their critical or popular reception.


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